Larry Fitzgerald's prayers for a competent QB have finally been answered. (USAT)
More times than not, divorces are not pretty. But after the extensive bickering, lawyer talk and concessions, sometimes beauty can emerge from the chaos.
Just ask Carson Palmer.
As reported by various outlets, including the Purple Palace’s own Michael Silver, the fractured relationship between the Raiders and the two-time Pro Bowler is beyond irreparable. The passer wants out, an identical feeling he expressed just three short years ago when held hostage by Mike Brown in Cincinnati. Assuming he gets his wish, which rumblings suggest will happen imminently, a red alert will be issued in Fantasyland. It appears Palmer will soon be an Arizona Cardinal. That happens, and tears of joy will stream down the cheeks of Larry Fitzgerald supporters.
A competent quarterback … Halle-flippin’-lujah!
Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer – it’s been a cavalcade of suck for Fitz since the Sultan of Stubble, Kurt Warner, called it quits after the 2009 season. During that stretch, no talent at WR was wasted more. Though he posted admirable numbers in 2011, last season was a forgettable campaign for the popular early-round selection. He was the seventh-most targeted wide receiver, but finished outside the position’s top-50 in per game average (6.5 fppg), behind the likes of Golden Tate, Brandon Gibson and teammate Andre Roberts.
The mighty fell very hard, to say the least.
Yes, everything from the waist down is slow motion for Palmer. The steamroller scene from 'Austin Powers' symbolizes his agility. To be effective, he needs adequate pocket protection, undeniably the Cardinals’ most glaring flaw last year. However, that weakness could strengthen overnight. Management plans to address the issue early and often later this month in the draft. If the fresh faces can jell quickly this summer, Arizona’s offensive fortunes could reverse in a hurry. Roberts was a pleasant surprise last fall and franchise newcomer Rashard Mendenhall, a legitimate three-down back who knows Bruce Arians’ system from his days in Pittsburgh, should bolster a rushing attack that ranked dead last a season ago. Now with Palmer almost in tow, it would be no surprise if the ex-Illini finished in range of 1200-plus total yards with 6-8 scores. He will be a fine RB2 even in shallow leagues likely available after Round 4.
Palmer isn’t QB1 material, but, if given at least average protection, he should be a profitable QB2 in 12-team leagues. He’s no spring chicken at 33, but he still possesses plenty of zip on intermediate throws and decent touch on deep passes. According to Pro Football Focus' accuracy metric, he was the 20th-best QB in the game in '12, 10 spots ahead of Kolb. He's also an above average play-action passer, an area Arizona struggled mightily in last year. Overall, he was quite useful at times from a fantasy perspective. Palmer averaged 19.9 fantasy points per game, the 16th-best line among signal callers in standard settings. And that was with less than stellar receiving talent. In Arians’ QB-friendly system, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Andy Dalton on draft day, a top-15 passer capable of 4,000-plus yards and 24-27 touchdowns.
Obviously, Fitz is the big winner in this deal. Again, provided the offensive line problems are resolved, he should be a trusted WR1. Don't be afraid to buy on the bear. Palmer’s plus accuracy, judiciousness with the football and experience will prove invaluable. For the wideout, a return to his 90-1400-10 glory days is a reasonable expectation.
As for dysfunction junction, Matt Flynn’s acquisition from Seattle, accompanied with Palmer’s dismissal, paves the way for the former backup to take first team snaps. Many scouts and insiders are undecided about Flynn’s immediate impact. Yahoo!’s Jason Cole noted recently Packers' executives questioned his arm strength. He has suitable targets around him, particularly Denarius Moore and, when bipedal, Darren McFadden, but he’s only drawn one start in his career. Frankly, there’s more concrete evidence of Bigfoot’s existence than Flynn’s time under center in the NFL. He truly is the great unknown, making him completely unreliable in fantasy. His uncertainty also diminishes the value of the aforementioned weapons around him, particularly Moore who typically thrives downfield.
It’s already been a very active offseason, especially for wide receivers. Danny Amendola and Percy Harvin each received significant value boosts heading to New England and Seattle respectively. But Monday’s presumed move by Arizona has Fitzgerald on the biggest upswing. His savior has arrived – maligned no more.
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